World’s first expandable habitat for astronauts tested at ISS
Finally, NASA has initiated testing of Bigelow Expandable Activity Module (BEAM) at the International Space Station (ISS). Last month, NASA had launched a 3,100-pound module aboard a SpaceX Dragon cargo capsule that was attached to the ISS after covering a 250 miles journey above earth. BEAM is basically an inflated compartment that is expandable in space and provides as much as 20 times more space for astronauts.
Creation of Bigelow Aerospace, BEAM is testing this inflatable compartment for NASA at a cost of about US$18.8 million. Initial testing involved supplying air into the compartment to expand it to study pressure measurements. It took about an hour as the process was paused multiple times because of out-of-spec pressure reading.
Eventually, the team successfully expanded the chamber four times its volume. The 2 meters long and 2 meters in diameter expanded 4 meters in length and 3 meters in diameter.
However, the chamber will remain sealed until next week in order to allow controllers to make certain there is no air leak or other technical troubles before allowing astronauts in there. The team will also study resistant of chambers surface to space junk, solar radiation and temperature extremes.
The idea of expandable habitat is likely to revolutionize the way astronauts stay in space. It is feasible, cheaper, and offers more living space to habitants where they are free to perform their normal bodily activities without restrain. Further, Bigelow also sees is at suitable future habitat for space tourists.
Source: National Post